Superior National Forest timeline

1895-1903 - C.C. Andrews, Minnesota's first state forester, joins with Minnesota Federation of Women's Clubs to push for federal "forest reserve areas'' and the development of national forests in Minnesota.

1895-1903 - C.C. Andrews, Minnesota's first state forester, joins with Minnesota Federation of Women's Clubs to push for federal "forest reserve areas'' and the development of national forests in Minnesota.

1905 - U.S. Forest Service formed as an agency within the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Federal forest reserves already being established in other states.

1908 - The Chippewa National Forest is established in north-central Minnesota.

1909 - Superior National Forest created by presidential proclamation. Across the border in Canada, Quetico Forest Reserve is established, which became Quetico Provincial Park in 1913.

1910 - Joe Fitzwater named first supervisor of the forest.


1911 - Federal Weeks Act allows government to purchase additional forest land in the area.

1919 - Arthur Carhart, then a Forest Service planner who later became a renowned author and conservationist, tours the border lakes region of the forest. He'd return to do a more extensive survey in 1921 suggesting keeping some large areas roadless and building recreation sites.

1922 - Construction begins on local roads - Echo Trail, Gunflint Trail and Fernberg Road - in the name of public access and fire prevention.

1923 - Efforts expand to protect wild areas of the Superior forest from new roads, mining, logging and development, lead by conservationists like Ernest C. Oberholzer and later Sigurd Olson.

1925 - Plans rekindled for large hydroelectric operations, including dams and generators, along the border lakes. Those plans later fail thanks to efforts by Oberholzer.

1930 - Henrik Shipstead, U.S. Senator from Minnesota, pushes the Shipstead/Newton/Nolan Act through Congress creating the first defacto wilderness to protect water quality and act as an aesthetic buffer around lakes.

1933 - Ten years of work by the Civilian Conservation Corps begins that would see construction of the first major campgrounds and campsites, roads, trails, portages and reforestation efforts across the forest. The CCC also provided firefighting help in addition to help planting trees and improving fisheries.

1938 - The first of three roadless areas are designated in the Superior National Forest, prohibiting new road construction.


1948 -- Thye/Blatnik Bill passes Congress, allowing the acquisition of forest lands within the roadless areas specifically for recreation, not logging.

1951 - Federal law takes effect prohibiting airplanes from flying low over or landing on lakes within the roadless areas. At the time, Ely is the largest floatplane base in the world.

1958 - Superior Roadless Areas renamed the Boundary Waters Canoe Area. Timber harvest on the Superior National Forest tops 100 million board feet for the first year ever, one of only three years it exceeded that mark.

1964 - Wilderness Act passes Congress designating the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness and other areas under a federal wilderness system.

1965 - First permits required for entry into BWCAW, and outboard motors are restricted within wilderness area.

1967 - First pines that were planted in CCC reforestation efforts of the 1930s are harvested for lumber as the Superior National Forest begins to rebound and regenerate after destructive logging and fires of the late 1800's and early 1900s. Aspen becomes the primary species cut in the forest, growing back naturally after the heavy pine harvesting a half-century earlier.

1973 - Timber wolves are placed on the endangered species list after becoming nearly extinct in the contiguous 48 states. Their last stronghold was in the Superior National Forest, where about 200 wolves hung on. Now, there are nearly 3,000 wolves in Minnesota and hundreds more in Wisconsin and Michigan.

1978 - After decades of political and social debate, the BWCA Wilderness Act passes. The act expands the wilderness to 1.1 million acres and Congress gives the Forest Service specific direction in how to manage the BWCAW. Motorless areas are expanded and resorts and cabins are moved off some lakes.


1981 - The first fee, $5, charged for BWCAW reservations.

1985 - Timber harvest hits 100 million board feet for the year for the last time. After stabilizing in the 1990s at historically high levels, harvests generally have been going down.

1986 - Dorothy Molter, the last year-round resident of the BWCAW, also known as the Root Beer Lady, dies. Her cabin was later moved out of the BWCAW to Ely.

1999 - July 4th windstorm topples millions of trees across northern Minnesota, including nearly 500,000 acres in the Superior National Forest. Amazingly, no one is killed. But experts warned that the downed trees would become fuel for huge wildfires in future years.

2005 - The first of those expected fires, near Alpine Lake, burns 1,335 acres and nearly escapes to burn resorts and homes.

2006 - Cavity Lake fires burns nearly 32,000 acres near Seagull Lake.

2007 - The Ham Lake wildfire, started by a campfire that blew out of control, burns nearly 70,000 acres in Minnesota and Ontario, destroying nearly 150 cabins, homes, businesses and other buildings. It is the largest and most costly wildfire in Minnesota since 1918.

2008 - Timber harvest falls to 32.3 million board feet, less than one-third of peak years.


2009 - Superior National Forest officials estimate the forest's annual economic impact - including timber sales, wood products from national forest timber, staff payroll and spending by tourists and local residents who recreate in the forest - between $600 and $700 million.

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